Ethekwini Municipality had its fair share of challenges in 2020
Durban - THE eThekwini Municipality and its residents have had their fair share of challenges in 2020.
The number of incidents that occurred around the city, however, show that it was more a year of frustration and anger than of joy and happiness said IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi yesterday, Wednesday.
Nkosi said the people of eThekwini, in general, had nothing to celebrate in 2020. “We expected to see change when the new political administration was brought in after former mayor Zandile Gumede and her ANC councillors were removed from the executive committee (Exco). Instead, we saw some administrative instability which was not doing any good for the people.”
“The arrest and re-arrest of the municipal manager Sipho Nzuza also did not instil confidence in the people of Durban. We have had a rough ride this year with strikes and uncollected garbage causing a stink around and in the city centre,” said Nkosi.
Among the incidents that took place in Durban this year was the Durban Solid Waste employees strike in March which saw the city centre and surrounding areas having to contend with maggot-infested uncollected bins and black bags strewn all over the place. The workers were striking against the city’s implementation of overtime pay changes.
In the same month, Nzuza was arrested by the Hawks’ National Clean Audit Task Team, which had been appointed to investigate various allegations of fraud and corruption amounting to the loss of millions of rands within the municipality.
Nzuza became one of the 16 accused, among them were officials and businesses including former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, who were arrested and currently face charges relating to a Durban Solid Waste (DSW) R430 million tender. Nzuza was hauled before the court again in November for allegedly violating his bail conditions.
According to the Hawks, Nzuza’s bail conditions stated specifically that he may not: contact or communicate in any way, whether directly or indirectly, with witnesses relating to the audit trail of the DSW – Ethekwini Tender, among others.
The Daily News had seen more than 10 of the documents that Nzuza had signed with a combined tender value of more than R40m, a serious violation of the bail conditions. Another shocker was the arrest of Nzuza’s wife Bagcinele early this month as accused number 18 in the same R430m DSW fraud and corruption saga.
Bagcinele, 51, allegedly facilitated the fitting of a built-in kitchen at her mother-in-law’s house, which was allegedly paid for by one of the service providers implicated in the DSW tender scandal. She was released on R30 000 bail.
In the final days of 2020, eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda came out gunning for the whistle-blowers within his Metro for leaking information and documents to the media.
In one of the recent virtual Exco meetings, Kaunda voiced his anger at those who leaked information to the media before they were even “processed” by Exco and full council.
This was when City Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU) head Mbuso Ngcobo presented his unit’s reports on fraud and corruption. The matter at hand was the leaking of one of the CIIU reports about Covid-19 spending.
“The question is that reports from the CIIU get leaked to the media before they are processed. Have you been able to identify the perpetrators? Who is the weakest link?” fumed Kaunda at the time.
Nkosi said all this year’s events have created uncertainty about the seriousness of the city leadership to serve the poor. “Foreign investors are sceptical about investing in eThekwini, and even businesses are affected badly by the number of homeless people who are kept around the city. The authorities are encouraging the homeless to stick around by offering them food every day.”
“This (cooked food provision) is not a solution to homelessness. The solution is to screen these people and identify those who are legitimate homeless and those who just run away from home for not wanting to obey the rules of their parents. When you just provide all with food but with no shelter is a receipt for disaster. It is not a bad thing to provide food, but that alone is not a solution,” Nkosi said.
DA councillor Nicole Graham said this had been a very challenging year. “I think if there were some high points in terms of how the food relief programme was rolled out by the municipality, there were glitches but overall it did help people and some of the business interventions were also helpful.
“But I think the biggest sort of characteristic of this year has been that service delivery in the city has completely collapsed. Electricity and water departments are dealing with just dysfunctional systems, technicians who can’t do repairs cause there’s nothing in stores, or there is no budget or there are no contractors. As a councillor, this is the worst that has ever been, and I think that’s the opinion of all the DA councillors that I work with.”
“We’ve had the unprecedented situation where the city manager gets arrested for corruption, returned to the city because the leadership failed to handle the investigation in the correct time frame. Obviously, that affects investors and the kind of perception that people in the city have,” said Graham.